31 August 2017

HOUSE MOVE UPDATE.



We had a plan. The plan was for us to drive back to the UK on Monday 28th August, having put Daisy in the cattery, and spend a week packing the house in a calm, orderly and organised fashion. Then we had planned to drive back to France on 6th September in good time to get the bedrooms ready, house cleaned up and fridge stocked in time for my brother Colin and his daughter Jo to arrive for a holiday on the 9th. Then we would be free and ready to actually move towards the end of September. Good plan.

A week last Monday (21st August) we received an email from our solicitor to say could we complete and move on the Friday (25th). This was nonsense as we had not yet exchanged contracts and our buyer's surveyor had not yet done the survey on the house. Our contact at our estate agent is brilliant and she got to the bottom of it and established that our buyer was ready, apart from the survey, and keen to move asap. The surveyor collected a key that day and it appeared that there was indeed the chance that we could move quickly, not last Friday but soon after. Nick phoned our removers who said they could move us Friday 25th at a push but other than that they could only do Weds 30th as they were booked up until 7th September. (Which was not very convenient as our guests would be arriving two days later.)

So Nick dashed back to the UK on the earliest flight he could get (Thursday24th) to start packing, while I remained in France cat sitting...........because the cattery was fully booked until 28th and the idea of taking Daisy with us and keeping her indoors and out of the way while we packed and moved house seemed just too problematic. I would follow on 28th as planned.

It was stop, go, all week until 4.30pm last Friday, 25th, bearing in mind it was a bank holiday weekend, when an email arrived from our solicitor to say that our buyer would not exchange contracts until we had had the boiler serviced and had a certificate to prove it!

Nick then spent a frantic hour ringing round every Corgi registered plumber on the Trusted Trader website and finally found one who wasn't booked up for a month who promised to come and service the boiler straight after the bank holiday.

The tunnel crossing we had on 28th was very late in the evening and I didn't relish making the twelve hour drive all by myself when I might be very tired, so I moved it to a more sensible time the next day. That gave me extra time to organise the bedrooms for our visitors, clean up and so on, which was handy. Then, during the very hot weather, the car developed a fault. An orange light was showing in
the display suggesting an engine fault. Just what I didn't need! The fault light seemed intermittent and
the car was running perfectly well so we decided that I would risk the journey but move it again to the next day when the
weather was forecast to be much cooler. That was yesterday.

Yesterday (30th August) the boiler man came and Nick whisked the certificate round to the solicitor who said it was still possible to exchange that day and move Friday or Monday. I left the house in France at 5am for the twelve hour drive back to the UK.  While I was on the road Nick found another removal company to come and give us an estimate and offer us more dates, which was a relief.

My journey back was awful. No problem at all on the French side but, as always, chaos on the UK side. Within thirty minutes of being on UK tarmac I was at a standstill on the M20 for an hour due to a crash. The journey from Folkestone to Derbyshire took seven hours whereas it usually takes four at the most. This was due to crashes, road works, foul weather and heavy spray causing bad visibilty and last but not least, sheer volume of traffic. How I loathe driving in the UK. I arrived home an exhausted, nervous wreck. To find that contracts had not geen exchanged because.............the solicitor for the people whose house we are buying is on holiday.

So here we are, surrounded by boxes, just waiting. Daisy is deposited in the cattery in France wearing her best "we are not amused" expression and we're hoping that some time today our sellers will find someone else in their solicitor's office who will get their arse into gear and do something about the contract. FFS they are not even buying another house, no searches or surveys to be done, all they had to do was get the contract drawn up and collect the money. And what was their agent doing for her money, she should have been making sure it was all teed up.

And you may wonder why moving house in the UK is so stressful.



27 August 2017

NOW WHERE WAS I? OH YES, ST EMILION.

It’s time I rounded off my St Emilion series of posts.  After all, it was nearly three months ago that we were there.  I’ll finish up by doing one post that should really be three – the food, the wine and the surrounding area.

st emilion food, wine and places

On our way to St Emilion we passed through a village called Montagne and spotted this restaurant, which was open on Mondays.  By Monday morning, having been in St Emilion for just 36 hours, we had come to the conclusion that restaurants in the town were charging tourist prices.  The meal we had on that first night cost about 50% more than a similar meal would have cost in any number of restaurants near us in Touraine.  It was very average and over priced.  There were plenty of other restaurants where the menu looked excellent, but priced at the level of a treat rather than just dinner.

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So on the Monday lunchtime we went out of town and back to the village of Montagne to try lunch in the Priory restaurant there instead.  We were not disappointed.

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For less than we had paid for the mediocre meal in town, we had an excellent lunch.  We also treated ourselves to a half bottle of the local wine.

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We enjoyed it so much that after lunch we went in search of the vineyard, which was just up the road.  We like to do this – taste the wine in a restaurant and go find where they get it from.  It’s fun.

In fact, we visited several wineries that afternoon and bought some wine. 

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The most expensive one we tasted and bought was this one, paying rather more than we usually pay for a bottle of wine, but we’re sure it is worth it.  We have seen the exact same wine for sale in the shops in St Emilion for nearly three times what we paid for it at the vineyard.  This particular wine is made from grapes grown in a small vineyard which is surrounded by other very famous vineyards such as Petrus. 

We declined the wine that was said to be good if kept for twenty years.  We told the lady in the tasting room that at our age putting wine aside for twenty, or even ten years, could be a waste of good wine – who knows whether we will be in a condition to enjoy it as much in our eighties as we do now?  She was highly amused.

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So, having been rather disappointed with the food in St Emilion and the price of the wine, how did we find the surrounding area?  Well, on several days we went for a ride out to explore and returned each time feeling very sad.  High on the hill above the Dordogne you have the pretty tourist town of St Emilion, where the food and wine is pricey and the well heeled tourists are fleeced good and proper.  Not very far away we came across several towns where the streets are full of decaying and deserted buildings, closed shops and businesses and all the signs of decline.  It looked like nobody much was making a good living in these towns nowadays, although they were surrounded by obviously thriving vineyards.

In Sainte-Foy la Grande, the evidence was there that this had once been a bustling, thriving town with a quayside along the bank of the Dordogne where goods would be loaded for transport on the river, and tourists would be unloaded for a stay in its fancy hotels and guest houses.  There was nothing very grand about the place now.

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For me it seemed tragic that right in the middle of a wine producing area where world famous wines are made and sold for very high prices, the little towns look like they are dying. 

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There were lovely old buildings, full of character and history, but now housing cheap cafés and cut price hairdressers. 

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In fact some of these places were so down at heel that I found them slightly unsettling, and I was glad to get back to St Emilion each evening, where there were crowds of cheerful, well dressed people, spending their money and having fun.

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Of course, not all of the surrounding towns are depressing.  We stumbled across this magnificent abbey at a town called La Sauve one teatime, just as it was closing, so went back the next day for a proper look.

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It was a photographer’s paradise, full of pillars, angles and shadows and we had a very happy morning with it almost completely to ourselves.

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It was well worth making the effort to go back.  On our return to St Emilion for the evening we called at one of the bars for a drink and I ordered an apéritif that I had never heard of before, called Cadillac.  It’s a slightly sweet strong wine which you drink in smallish glasses and comes from the nearby town of Cadillac.

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And so the next day we headed off to Cadillac to find out more.  Not only did we find the wine shop selling dozens of different bottles of the wine, but also discovered that there is a rather interesting château.

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In several of its very grand rooms (seven of them I think), there were magnificently restored fireplaces, which reminded me of similar fireplaces at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire.

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It also had, in one of the halls, some rather fantastic beaded sculptures of mystical creatures, beautifully done and, if I dare say, very French.

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At one point in its long and chequered history the château was used as a women’s prison and has prison doors on some of its rooms to prove it.  There were displays of photos taken during its prison period showing that conditions were obviously very harsh, in sharp contrast to the former grandeur of the château itself.

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So there we are, the end of my St Emilion series, a bit rushed and not before time.  I could go on and on but other stuff has been happening and there’s a lot to catch up on.  Soon…….

Would we go back to St Emilion?  Probably not.  I found it too busy, touristy and a bit false but it was nice to have stayed there just once.  It was a beautiful town, and sometimes it’s fun to be immersed in the hustle and bustle of tourist life, just for a while.  (If only to remind us how lucky we are to live in such a peaceful, quiet part of France.)  We would however definitely go back and explore more of the general area, for the photo opportunities if nothing else.  All in all we had a great time.

Time to move on………